For Immediate Release: May 26, 2021
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LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles City Councilmember Nithya Raman introduced two Motions today aimed at assisting small businesses made vulnerable by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Los Angeles has suffered among the highest rate of small business closures of any city in the country during the public health emergency.
“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our local economy in Los Angeles,” said Councilmember Raman. “They foster community and form a crucial part of the city’s creative energy. With another major round of small business losses at stake, it is imperative that we explore all potential avenues to ensure their long-term survival.”
The first motion, seconded by Council President Nury Martinez, aims to support small businesses at risk of eviction due to accumulated rent debt. The legislation calls for City Departments to investigate the scale of commercial rent debt and the capacity of small businesses to repay rent deferred during the commercial eviction moratorium. In the motion, Councilmember Raman also asks the City to explore concrete actions to support commercial tenants, such as incentivizing landlords to renegotiate leases.
“All said and done, we still are responsible for a year-plus worth of rent. There needs to be some middle ground,” said Mimi Benz, owner of Sweat Cycle fitness studio in Toluca Lake. “With this legislation, the scales can be potentially evened, and commercial tenants are given a fighting chance in bouncing back.”
Details including the number of small businesses that could be lost due to inability to repay deferred rent, the scale of potential job losses due to these closures, an analysis of these trends’ impacts according to race, gender, socioeconomic factors, and Council District, are asked to be provided in the report.
Natalie Freidberg, President of the Silver Lake Chamber of Commerce, sees this as a meaningful opportunity: “Rent debt is a huge concern for many of our small businesses — some have hundreds of thousands of dollars in back rent hanging over their heads. This motion takes an important step along a path for finding solutions for both commercial tenants and landlords.”
The second motion, co-introduced with Councilmembers Mike Bonin and Paul Krekorian, seeks to streamline and expedite the outdoor event permitting process for independent live music venues. The proposed legislation calls on City departments to propose a structure for outdoor performance permitting that could replace the cost- and time-intensive process used currently with a program that includes a single City entity designated to process applications and a clear and predictable application process and timeline.
“This year has been brutal for live venues. We’ve been operating in this community for over 50 years, and this past year alone has put our family business on the brink of permanent closure,” said Justin Randi, owner and operator of the Baked Potato, the oldest operating jazz club in Los Angeles, located in Studio City. “Making it easier for independent venues like ours to utilize outdoor spaces for live shows will help boost revenue and bring customers back so we can continue serving the community we know and love.”
The motion additionally calls for a report on the possibility of waiving fees incurred by music venues, including outdoor venue permits, business registration, and regulatory fees, for a two-year period.
“With over a year of recurring debt, overhead costs, and no revenue streams, the iconic venues that have shaped Los Angeles’ foundation as the creative capital of the world have been struggling to stay afloat,” said Heather Martin, co-founder of the Los Angeles Independent Venues Coalition. “This motion to streamline the city’s outdoor permitting process provides us with more avenues to repurpose our outdoor spaces so we can re-open and build back more safely, fully, and equally.”